The A's, in front of another sellout crowd at the Coliseum, once again quieted the Giants' fans as they took the second game of the series, beat up on rookie pitcher Mike Kickham and sent him to the showers after 2.1 innings; making him the proud owner of four walks and four earned runs. I thought the A's offense was being rather kind; they were a little LOB-y in the game, only scoring 6 runs total instead of double-digits, but as it turned out, Jarrod Parker and his sparkling seven innings didn't need any more run support.
The A's were behind in this game before they ever came to bat; a one-out single by Scutaro and a nine-pitch at-bat by Sandoval put runners and first and second, and a run would eventually score. During Sandoval's at-bat, he lofted a foul fly ball out to left field, and it looked like Cespedes might have had a play, but he pulled up short of crashing into the wall. And you know what? I didn't hate that. I know sometimes you need to make the big plays, but we need Cespedes healthy more than we need his circus catches and I wasn't even mad about the run scoring. After all, don't the A's just love facing rookie pitchers?
Normally, I'd expect 9 up and 9 down for the A's offense; rookies are usually perfect through the A's lineup at least 3 innings. But sometimes, your beloved team surprises you, and this was one of those nights. Kickham retired the first four A's, but ran into game-changing trouble in the second inning. Jed Lowrie singled with one out, bringing up Derek Norris. Norris started with a 3-0 count, then 3-1, and then absolutely crushed a homerun deep into the Oakland night. (And ironically, it wasn't the hardest hit homerun of the night; see: meaningless solo homerun by Hunter Pence in the ninth down four.) At first glance for both me and Buster Posey, who sprinted out to the mound as if to collect that pitch back, we thought that the ball was thrown right down the middle, but upon further review, Norris hit that ball like he knew it was coming. Gorgeous shot, and it quickly turned the 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead, one the A's would never relinquish.
Jarrod Parker, the sudden master of the shutdown inning, retired the Giants in order in the third, setting the table for the A's to add on in what was easily the longest half-inning of the night. Chris Young walked with one out, in a hard-fought at-bat where the calls definitely went his way (something new and different!), and Cespedes doubled him to third. Then Bruce Bochy lost his damn mind. In the THIRD inning, with a young ROOKIE pitcher on the mound, in a MAY game and Josh Donaldson at the plate, having a terrific year, but looking like Michael Taylor in his first at-bat against Kickham (no offense, love you BringerofRain!), Bochy called for the intentional walk to load the bases. No pressure, rookie.
Of COURSE he walked in a run. Lowrie made sure of that, and the A's extended their lead to 3-1. Good thing too. After a Freiman single, which extended the lead to 4-1, Bochy yanked Kickham for Kontos, who retired Derek Norris, and yanked Kontos for Lopez, who struck out pinch-hitter Seth Smith. Then Bochy went with our old favorite Chad Gaudin for the next three innings.
Meanwhile, Parker just kept rolling along, and so did the A's offense, gradually building their lead. They added another run in the fifth as Donaldson singled off Gaudin, Lowrie singled him to second, Derek Norris walked, and so did Seth Smith, as Gaudin walked in the A's fifth run. Rosales would homer in the eighth for the sixth (and to steal the save away from Balfour).
Parker would give up just one run more in the sixth after a leadoff double by Scutaro, and he would end his night with seven innings, five hits, two runs, one walk, four strikeouts, and the ever-elusive win. Cook would throw a perfect eighth, and Balfour would give up a long homerun in the ninth, but a solo job, and the A's would win.
The A's have--at worst--guaranteed a split of the series, have held their ground at home, have shot to 7 games over .500, have gained 2 games on the Rangers in as many days, and have now won 10 out of their last 11 games, and 5 in a row. The train rolls into San Francisco tomorrow night, as the A's look to take the series as Tommy Milone will be matched up against Tim Lincecum. I'll be your host, and I'll see you back here at 7:15!